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An exhausted French Legionnaire is caught in the brutal Algerian desert storm, his fate in the balance.
The Simoon – the violent, hot wind that blows in the North African desert – gives its name to August Strindberg’s psychological drama, published in 1889 and later described by the Glaswegian composer Erik Chisholm as ‘exciting and frightening’.
Chisholm’s adaptation evokes the desert setting, a musical blend of the Hindustani scales he had studied in wartime India and a skilful use of free twelve-tone technique, but it was never performed with orchestra in his own lifetime. Written in 1952 as part of a triptych of one-act operas, Simoon was first performed with piano accompaniment in New York in 1954.
This world premiere of the full orchestral score was given in Glasgow as part of the Cottier Chamber Project 2015 on June 8th 2015, in a semi-staged production commissioned by The Erik Chisholm Trust (www.erikchisholm.com) with film by Roddy Simpson and performed by Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland (McOpera).
Watch and listen to Simoon, courtesy of Delphian Records Ltd from the live recording taken at Glasgow’s historic Western Baths.
Algeria, during the 1880s: Simoon, the dry and violent desert wind blows with terrifying brutality. We discover Yusuf in love with Biskra, who has determined to avenge the death of Ali, a local guide murdered by French legionaries.
Guimard, an exhausted Legionnaire, separated from his colleagues and caught in the cruel and brutal desert wind, pleads with Biskra to give him shelter. Summoning the mystical powers of her people, she unleashes her exacting psychological revenge, torturing Guimard with cruel hallucinations: an unfaithful wife, the betrayal of a friend and the death of a son.
Her revenge complete, Biskra and Yusuf embrace, honouring the child she will now bear him.
CAST & CREATIVES
Jane Irwin - Biskra
Philip Sheffield - Yusuf
Damian Thantrey - Guimard
Charlie Drummond - Voice
Salma Faraji - Biskra
Erick Mauricia - Yusuf
Michael Daviot - Guimard
Kirsty McIntyre - Elise
Ben Clifford - Jules
Kevin Axel - Ali
Ian Ryan - Conductor
McOpera Ensemble (Music Co-Operative Scotland)
Roddy Simpson - Film Director & Editor
Roddy Simpson & Judith Fieldhouse - Cameras
Sue Baxendale - Producer
Rachel Holton - Production Assistant
Katie Hull (leader)
Scottish Opera for all their
support and assistance
Brodies Funeral Services Ltd, Harthill
Kinning Park Complex
Friends of McOpera
Dr and Mrs Robertson
Mrs Ellis Taylor
Rosewood Mustel No. 1023-779 (1900)
supplied by Phillip Fluke (www.harmoniumhire.co.uk)
ERIK CHISHOLM (1904 - 1965)
Erik Chisholm was born in Glasgow. He left school at the age of thirteen to study composition, piano and organ at the Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and later spent 2-3 years in London living and studying with the leading Russian pianist Leff Pouishnoff. From the early days Chisholm was exploring the latest repertoire, premiering Bartók’s first Piano Concerto in Glasgow and also giving Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition its Scottish premiere.’
Chisholm obtained his Doctorate in Music at Edinburgh University under the tuition of Donald Tovey. As well as being a fine pianist, Chisholm was an outstanding organist and an innovative conductor and concert promoter. Opera became a lifelong passion for him and in Glasgow in the 1930s he conducted the British premieres of Mozart’s Idomeneo and Berlioz’s The Trojans. In 1929 he founded the Active Society for the Propagation of Contemporary Music under whose auspices he brought leading composers including Bartók, Hindemith, Casella, Szymanowski, Schmitt, Walton and Medtner to the city. He was dubbed ‘MacBartók’ not because his music could ever be confused with Bartók’s, but because he was pursuing a similar compositional course in his handling of Scottish traditional music as did Bartók with the Central European tradition.
While Chisholm’s primary influence was that of his own native music, he was also greatly influenced by Hindustani music, following his friendship with Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, and a period of service in the Far East during the Second World War. He founded a symphony orchestra in Singapore, and after the war was appointed Professor of Music at the University of Cape Town. As Dean of the Faculty of Music he was, until his untimely death, a highly influential figure in the musical life of South Africa, founding the university’s important Opera School which still flourishes today.
After Chisholm’s death his music was almost forgotten, but in 2001 his daughter Morag founded the Erik Chisholm Trust to revive interest in it and to make his work, much of it unpublished, more generally available. The trust has also enabled several of his major works to be released on CD, including the complete solo piano works, played by Murray McLachlan, the two piano concertos, the Violin Concerto, the Dance Suite, the ‘Ossian’ Symphony and Pictures from Dante.
The Erik Chisholm Trust was established in 2001 by the composer's daughter, Dr Morag Chisholm, to promote and advance the appreciation of the music of composer Erik Chisholm and to establish a UK base for the study of Chisholm's music and writing. Many of Chisholm's music manuscripts are held in the Archive of the University of Cape Town Library, but in recent years an important Chisholm Collection of his papers and associated material has been established in the Archive of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. Printed scores are housed in the Scottish Music Centre, also in Glasgow.
The trust has been responsible for arranging and funding performances, typesetting of unpublished scores (most of which are available for sale on the trust's website) and sponsoring commercial recordings of major works. It created the Erik Chisholm website (www.erikchisholm.com) as an invaluable resource which includes a comprehensive catalogue of the music and much of the composer's fascinating writing about music, and has a presence on Facebook (www.facebook.com/erikchisholmcomposer) and Twitter. The trust also commissioned John Purser's biography Erik Chisholm, Scottish Modernist 1904-1965 - Chasing a Restless Muse (Boydell and Brewer, 2009).
The audio recording of this performance of Simoon was issued on the Delphian label (DCD34139) in 2016.
SIMOON IN CONTEXT - a note from musicologist John Purser
Erik Chisholm’s musical journey was an adventure through many worlds, starting in Glasgow, and inspired by a collection of Gaelic music given to Erik on holiday in Millport when he was just a lad. That early gift led to Chisholm’s Pibroch Piano Concerto, first heard in Glasgow at the beginning of the War – a war which took Chisholm to the Far East where Hindustani music inspired several works, including the Violin Concerto performed by the BBCSSO in Glasgow, and the opera Simoon.
I knew nothing about Simoon, but the moment I set eyes on the full score I wanted to hear it, and having attended the magnificent revivals of Chisholm’s operas Dark Sonnet and The Pardoner’s Tale in Cape Town, I was ever more determined that this extraordinary work should be heard in its full orchestral colours.
Why Cape Town? The reason is that neither before nor after the War was Chisholm accepted for a post in Glasgow remotely equal to his capacities. Our loss was South Africa’s gain, and there, in charge of Opera, the College of Music and the Faculty of Music, Chisholm had at last a command of resources worthy of his energies. There he could compose operas and have at least some of them produced. But not Simoon, that weird exotic exploration of human psychology.
Chisholm wrote “the possibilities offered for musical expression (many of them suggested by Strindberg himself) are so obvious as to make Simoon the almost perfect short opera libretto”. But Simoon had only been produced once, and then only with piano accompaniment. That was in New York in 1954 and Chisholm himself never heard it performed. It was to be part of a triptych under the heading “Murder In Three Keys”. The Pardoner’s Tale was “murder by violence”; Dark Sonnet was “murder by persuasion”, and Simoon was “murder by suggestion”. Chisholm described the Strindberg as “exciting and frightening” and hoped that the free 12-tone style of the music, blended with Hindustani scales, would be “fitting for Strindberg’s uncanny little play”. It is almost unnerving to discover just how uncanny this extraordinary combination of dramatic and musical genius turned out to be.
Strindberg’s plot is intriguing and the psychological drama both inspired and chilling; but it is the music and its exotic melody and colouring that brings it to true sensual life – for this is a work of extraordinary sensuality in which all the senses are hideously deceived. Hearing, touch, taste, sight and smell are all subverted, and the intense care with which Chisholm has coloured his orchestration, is both beautiful and a parody of its own beauty.
Simoon is psychologically brutal, and its sensuality feeds upon death. Its religious and political motivation in the context of a foreign presence, and the refined torture which is used to lead the psychological prisoner to his death, yield a scenario which has many resonances half a century after the opera was composed, and well over a century after the text was written. The parallels with the atrocities of Al-Qaeda and the psychological and physical tortures of Guantanamo Bay are all too clear; but in this opera there is an even more compelling force – that of love. It may be a love directed by fanaticism, but it is real and frighteningly passionate.
John Purser 2020
photos Sean Purser
Ian Ryan - Conductor
Ian studied Economics at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and later as a repetiteur at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the National Opera Studio. He currently lives in Copenhagen where he is a member of the music staff at the Royal Danish Opera.
He began his career as a staff repetiteur for Scottish Opera. He has since worked for many of the other major opera companies, festivals and orchestras in the UK, including English National Opera, Opera North, Welsh National Opera and Edinburgh International Festival. Performances with BBC Symphony Orchestra include Nixon in China, conducted by the composer at the BBC Proms and the Musikfest Berlin.
For the Royal Danish Opera, Ian has conducted performances of Die Zauberflöte, Nixon in China, and Sweeney Todd. Other conducting highlights include Thomas Adès’ Powder her Face with the Britten Sinfonia, Jonathan Dove’s Swanhunter for Opera North and Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia with Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen. In 2019, Ian conducted performances of Eight Songs for a Mad King with Danish Bass Sten Byriel, in a collaboration with the Egnsteatret Undergrunden, Ensemble Storstrøm and the Copenhagen Opera Festival. Ian is also a regular guest conductor of the orchestra of Music co-OPERAtive Scotland, with performances of works by Britten, Verdi, Wagner and the Scottish premiere of Rothschild’s Violin (Fleishman) at the Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow.
Roddy Simpson - Director & Editor
Roddy obtained a Masters Degree in Visual Communication at Edinburgh College of Art and also worked at the college for several years as an editing tutor in their Film & TV department. He has worked extensively in theatre since 1980 and now works principally on moving image, photography and theatre lighting design, sound design and video projection projects.
His work includes several projects with Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland (McOpera) as video designer and lighting designer including their productions of “Simoon”, “The Soldier’s Tale” and the Lammermuir Festival’s community opera productions of “Noye’s Fludde” and “An Cadal Trom”. He also works at the Scottish Storytelling Centre operating lighting, sound and video projection for a variety of storytelling, theatre and music performances.
In 2018 as well as the McOpera production of “An Cadal Trom” he made a music video for indie singer/songwriter Hamish Hawk, two dance films commissioned by The National Library of Scotland for their “Scottish School Exams Creative Re-Sits” project, designed and operated lighting and sound for the Fringe production of “Don Quixote Unbound” by Michael Daviot and created a video to accompany conFab’s community opera “20 Seaward Street”.
Most recently Roddy toured with two productions by Annie George, “Home Is Not The Place” and “Twa” and designed and operated lighting and sound for Syke Loneragan’s “Though This Be Madness”, which was planned to be touring throughout 2020 but now, because of Covid-19, will be postponed until 2021. He lit and operated light and sound for Kate Maravan’s touring production of “The Old House” when it visited Edinburgh and worked with Kath Burlinson to reimagine the lighting and projection for her production of “InVisible Lines” at The Scottish Storytelling Centre earlier this year.
Jane Irwin - Biskra (Opera)
Jane Irwin studied music at Lancaster University and singing at the Royal Northern College of Music as a mezzo. As a concert and recital singer she has appeared regularly in Britain, Europe and America. In 2002 she made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony under Mariss Jansons. She has sung for the BBC Proms, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Berlin Festival, the Concertgebouw and the Musikverein. She has worked with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre de Paris, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Bamberg Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, American Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Spanish National Orchestra, Zurich Tonhalle, Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Hallé Orchestra.
Jane has also worked with the conductors Myung Whun Chung, Sir Simon Rattle, Günther Herbig, Semyon Bychkov, Ivor Bolton, Andrew Davis, Libor Pesek, Donald Runnicles, Antonio Pappano, Sakari Oramo, Sir Mark Elder, Matthias Bamert, Trevor Pinnock, Petr Altrichter, Paul Daniel, Joseph Swensen, Sir Richard Armstrong and Jakov Kreizberg. She has given recitals at the Châtelet, Paris, London, Edinburgh, Geneva, Aix-en-Provence and Japan.
In 2009 Jane moved into a soprano repertoire. She sang her first Britten War Requiem in January 2010 for the Cambridge University Music Society under David Hill and has since sung Tatiana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin at the Royal Festival Hall and Marie in fragments from Wozzeck with NYOS on tour under Diego Masson. She has also performed Isolde’s Liebestod in Sardinia, Sieglinde in Act1 of Die Walküre in Mexico City, Andromache in Tippett’s King Priam at the Brighton Festival, and Brunnhilde’s Immolation scene from Götterdämmerung with the Bremer Philharmoniker. As a mezzo, her roles included performances with Bernard Haitink at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as well as appearances at Bayreuth, San Francisco Opera, English National Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Scottish Opera and the Edinburgh Festival.
Recent and future engagements include Verdi Requiem with the RPO/Vladimir Jurowski at the Royal Festival Hall, concerts with Manchester Camerata, Northern Sinfonia, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (with Sir Simon Rattle), National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, San Diego Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony, Real Filharmonia de Galicia, Orchestre National de Lyon and Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, as well as Brangäne Tristan und Isolde for the Deutsche Oper Berlin conducted by Donald Runnicles (directed by Graham Vick). Jane also sang the role of Miss Jessel Turn of the Screw with Aurora Orchestra at Snape Maltings and LSO St. Luke’s, her first Isolde for Regensburg Opera and, in 2016, the Foreign Princess Rusalka in Saarbrucken. More recently, she sang Isolde in concert in Craiova, Romania and Mahler’s Song of the Earth with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Salma Faraji - Biskra (Film)
Salma was born in Paris, France. Given an internship at the Barrowland Ballet in her final year at West College Scotland, she has since participated extensively as a Dance Artist for the company. She has continued to gain knowledge and expertise throughout her performing career; as a workshop leader in nursery schools for Scottish Dance Theatre’s ‘Innocence’ Tour, ‘Big Dance Pledge’ with Scottish Ballet, on graduate placement with Ruth Mills, and as a facilitator for the Commonwealth Games 2014. She toured the Highlands performing in Theatre Presto’s pantomime ‘Aladdin’, and continues to teach adult dance classes, from The Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling to Brighton where she now lives.
Salma has recently returned from Brazil, having volunteered as “a human rights ambassador” for Minorities, Black, Indigenous and the LQBTQIA community, as well as other projects around South America, including sharing African Dance classes at a Women’s Refuge.
Philip Sheffield - Yusuf (Opera)
Philip Sheffield’s career has taken him all over the world from Buenos Aires to New York to Tokyo. He studied at Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music and made his opera debut under Roger Norrington in Monteverdi’s Orfeo. He was then invited to La Monnaie for L’incoronazione di Poppea which led to many engagements in Belgium, France and Germany.
Highlights in recent seasons include Rev. Horace Adams Peter Grimes for the Oper Köln, Opéra de Monte-Carlo and Ópera de Oviedo; Edward IV Richard III at the Teatro la Fenice; Snout A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hyogo Performing Arts Center, Japan; Harry La fanciulla del West for English National Opera; Čerevin From the House of the Dead for Opéra national du Rhin; and Jacob Schmidt Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny for Fura dels Baus in Athens. In 2020, he was due to sing Zivny Osud at the Janacek Theatre in Brno in a new production by Robert Carsen.
In his current repertoire notable appearances include Tichon Káťa Kabanová (Teatro Colón); Robin in Michael Berkeley’s For You (Teatro Olimpico, Rome); Dr Caius Falstaff and Rev. Horace Adams Peter Grimes (Opera Vlaanderen); Valzacchi Der Rosenkavalier (Opera North); Don Basilio Le nozze di Figaro (Glyndebourne); various roles in Robert Carsen’s production of Candide (English National Opera, Théâtre du Châtelet, Teatro alla Scala and in Tokyo and Osaka); and Van Dunen Kwasi and Kwame (Opera OT, Rotterdam). World premiere performances include The Tell-Tale Heart for the Royal Opera House; Claude for the Opéra de Lyon; and Der Turm for Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.
In this early career roles included Ferrando, Tamino, Belmonte, Lensky, Tom Rakewell and Pelléas, the latter performed at the Opéra Comique under Georges Prêtre. He quickly gained a reputation as a specialist in contemporary music and has performed leading roles in many world premieres for Opera North, The Royal Opera House, Théâtre du Châtelet, Opera Vlaanderen, Opera di Roma, München Biennale, the London Sinfonietta and notably Alonso The Tempest (Thomas Adès) for the Opéra National du Rhin.
Philip has been privileged to work with many internationally renowned directors and conductors including Olivier Pi, David Alden, Robert Carsen, David Pountney, Waut Koeken, Kazushi Ono, Mark Elder, Marcus Stenz, Paul Daniel, David Parry, Enrique Mazzola, Marko Letonja and Stuart Stratford.
On the concert platform he has performed at The Barbican, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Berliner Philharmonie. His repertoire includes Britten War Requiem and St. Nicholas, Bach St. John Passion, Elgar The Dream of Gerontius, Mahler Symphony No. 8, Rossini Stabat Mater and Verdi Requiem, and Simon in Harrison Birtwistle’s The Last Supper in Glasgow with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Recent releases include Claude (Opera de Lyon) and a live CD of Erik Chisholm’s Simoon.
Philip is the Artistic director of HGO (Hampstead Garden Opera).
Erick Mauricia - Yusuf (Film)
Erick Valentin Mauricia, a founding and a leading member of Ayawara West African Dance and Percussion Ensemble, brought his tradition, his knowledge and his experience of African music and dance to Glasgow from distant West Indies, African Guinea and France.
Erick gained certificates in Art Restoration in Paris in 1979 and in Performing Arts at The American Dance Centre in Paris in 1982. In 1989-90, he taught Modern and Afro Jazz to dancers from The Bolshoi and Moiseiv Traditional Moscow Ballet in Russia and in 1996, gained a Diploma in African Dance from The African Centre of Dance & Music in Paris.
Erick has choreographed, produced and performed for many productions and festivals involving modern and traditional dance, drumming, singing and stage plays in France, in Russia and in the UK. Apart from Ayawara, he has recently performed with Pan African Arts, Mara storytelling group, Guildasa and Maryhill Integration Network.
For several years, Erick has taught African dance and drumming, working with a large number of youth organisations in the community, including The Princes Trust, Impact Arts, Culture & Sport and Glasgow Life, and the Glasgow Dance House. Currently Erick works as a freelance practitioner teaching and performing with the medium of dance, music and film.
Erick has trained for over twenty years in Yoga, Martial Arts and Tai Chi techniques and has practiced meditation for some years. He also studied Counselling with Strathclyde University Glasgow and achieved the HNC in Sports Coaching and Development in 2008 at GCNS in Glasgow. Erick was also teaching Physical Education at The Glasgow Steiner School for 12 years.
Damian Thantrey - Guimard (Opera)
Damian Thantrey read law at Clare College, Cambridge and qualified as a lawyer before studying singing at the Royal College of Music with Margaret Kingsley. On leaving the RCM, Damian was awarded the Tagore Gold Medal and held the Mills Williams Junior Fellowship. He is continuing his studies with Paul Farrington.
Damian's recent operatic roles have included Deputy Mayor (Roy Fiction) in the Royal Opera House premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole, Cinderella's Prince/Wolf Into the Woods, Franz/Lee Sunday in the Park with George, Mr Lindquist A Little Night Music at the Theatre du Chatelet, Apollo Orfeo Opéra National de Lorraine, the Traveller Death in Venice Opéra de Metz, Brother Seven Deadly Sins, Chao Lin A Night at the Chinese Opera and Eisenstein Die Fledermaus for Scottish Opera, the English Clerk Death in Venice Opera North, Faiz Babur in London The Opera Group, Onegin Eugene Onegin Blackheath Halls, Ferdinand The Duenna English Touring Opera, Adonis Venus and Adonis La Nuova Musica, the English Clerk Death in Venice at the Aldeburgh and Bregenz Festivals and at the Opéra de Lyon.
In recital, Damian has performed a variety of work across the UK and in London at the Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall and St John's, Smith Square. He has performed across the UK with Peter Hewitt in recitals of English and French song, as well as several performances of major cycles including Schubert's Winterreise, Schumann's Dichterliebe and Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer, Rückertlieder and Kindertotenlieder.
Damian is the Artistic Director of the Lichfield Festival.
Michael Daviot - Guimard (Film)
Michael was born and schooled in Edinburgh. His first play, 'The Knight From Nowhere' (about Henry Irving), was commissioned and performed by the Royal Lyceum Theatre as part of its Centenary Season in 1983. Until 1991 he worked mostly in Scotland, at the Brunton, Pitlochry, Dundee Rep etc. and in 1989 toured with Derek Jacobi for several months in Richard II and Richard III.
In winter '90/'91 he was Henry Higgins in Pygmalion for an UK and European tour. After playing a season in Pitlochry with the great Walter Carr, Michael went to St Albans and stayed there for the next 15 years before moving to Bedford. While in England, he played Elyot Chase in Private Lives at the Redgrave Theatre, Farnham; Giles Ralston in the West End production of The Mousetrap; Modest Tchaikovsky in Who Killed Tchaikovsy; Prospero in The Tempest, Dafydd ap Llewellyn in A Chorus of Disapproval; W B Yeats in A Vision; Buckingham in Richard III; Robert Louis Stevenson in Ultimate Islands, Falstaff (in Chimes at Midnight; Leontes in The Winter's Tale etc.
Since returning to Scotland in 2010, he has met and made eight films with Craig-James Moncur, from the YouTube hit, The Banker, to the full length feature, Skeletons; he has appeared in Mary of the High Seas as a singing pirate captain; played the nasty Laird in Macpherson's Rant; played Guimard in Erik Chisholm’s opera Simoon; he has done much voice-over and role play work; he appeared in Outlander (as a Highland Prisoner); played Trofimov in The Cherry Orchard for Theatre Alba, The Parson in the major revival of Ane Satire of the Thrie Estaitis, himself and several others (including his beloved Robert Louis Stevenson) in the critically acclaimed Hyde & Seek, Samuel Goudsmit in a major Japanese TV production, Atomic Espionage, and The Actor/Baron in The Lower Depths. This last performance was described by Thom Dibdin as 'magnificent'.
He wrote the text for Nijinsky's Last Jump, which has just finished a rave-reviewed run at the Edinburgh Fringe, receiving 4 **** reviews and 3 *****.
He has recently finished writing Nosferatu, The Actor - his new solo show -about the life and work of the iconic but unknown Max Schreck.
Charlie Drummond - Voice (Opera)
Charlie Drummond was born in Lincoln, is an alumna of King’s College London (English Literature), the Alexander Gibson Opera Studio at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (AGOS), the National Opera Studio and is a Samling Young Artist. During her studies Charlie was the recipient of a number of prestigious awards including the Help Musicians UK Tutton Award, an Independent Opera Voice Scholarship, the Musicians’ Company Silver Medal, and the Bruce Millar Gulliver Prize.
Charlie is currently an Emerging Artist at Scottish Opera for the 2019-2020 season for the following: Dhia Iris, Helena A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hermia’s Nightmare*, Casilda The Gondoliers*, Nekaya Utopia Ltd.*, Belle The Narcissistic Fish, and Opera Highlights 2019. *rescheduled/cancelled due to Covid-19
Other operatic roles include: the Countess, The Marriage of Figaro (Opera Bohemia), Anna, Anna Bolena (Longborough Festival Opera), Donna Anna Don Giovanni (British Youth Opera), Rosalinde Die Fledermaus, Fiordiligi Cosi Fan Tutte, and Mrs Julian in Britten's Owen Wingrave (AGOS), and Eleonora in Salieri's Prima la musica e poi le parole (with Noa Namaat). She also premiered the role of Serena Farage in the new opera The Secretary Turned CEO (Lucid Arts) and performed in the world premiere of Simoon by Erik Chisholm (Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland / McOpera).
Her wide concert repertoire includes: Tippet’s A Child of Our Time (Glasgow Cathedral), Vaughan-Williams' Sea Symphony at the Beijing Concert Hall, Brahm's Requiem at the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Hall (Peking Sinfonietta - Nicolas Smith), Beethoven's Missa Solemnis at Glasgow City Halls (Orchestra of Scottish Opera - Bartosz Zurakowski), Beethoven's Choral Fantasia at Glasgow City Halls (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra - Thomas Dausgaard), Bernstein's Chichester Psalms at the Usher Hall (Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra - Marin Alsop), Haydn's Creation at St John Smith's Square (Nick Kraemer), Haydn's Nelson Mass, Orff's Carmina Burana, Mozart's Exultate Jubilate, and Rossini's Petite Messe Solenelle. Recitals include an Independent Opera recital at the Wigmore Hall with pianist James Bailieu, Faure's La Bonne Chanson with French pianist Anne Le Bozec, and Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder with the St. James Orchestra and Ryan Bancroft.
Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland (McOpera)
was formed in the spring of 2012 by the musicians of the Orchestra of Scottish Opera to generate a range of artistically exciting and diverse work, devised and led by the players themselves. Since that time, it has developed a portfolio of activity ranging from operatic productions, bespoke recording projects, orchestral performances and community outreach projects across a wide social and cultural demographic.
Alongside chamber music, orchestral and choral work, Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland performed the Scottish premiere of Fleishmann’s Rothschild’s Violin and the world premiere of Scottish composer Erik Chisholm’s opera Simoon as part of The Cottier Chamber Project and Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and Matthew Rooke’s An Cadal Trom for the Lammermuir Festival. Artists-in-Residence at the University of Aberdeen, the group also regularly deliver chamber music recitals and masterclasses utilising the wide range of vocal and instrumental combinations within the membership, and support a wide range of outreach activity across Scotland under the aegis of McOpera Outreach.
(photo Judith Fieldhouse)
Katie Hull - Leader
Katie studied violin in London at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with David Takeno. Appointed Principal 1st Violin with the Northern Sinfonia at the age of 21, she then moved to Glasgow to work with the Scottish Ensemble and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. She was appointed Assistant Leader of the Orchestra of Scottish Opera in 1996, and played a formative role in the emergence of Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland (McOpera).
She is a sought after orchestral and chamber musician, working regularly with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia and Scottish Chamber Orchestra amongst many others, and has tutored violin at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for nearly 20 years. She was awarded an MBA from the University of Glasgow in 2018.
(photo Robin Mitchell)
Sue Baxendale - McOpera Producer and McOpera Outreach Project Manager
Section Principal Horn with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera since 1996, Sue is a varied portfolio musician, combining her playing and teaching career with freelance producing and project managing for Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland and other organisations. Alongside her work for McOpera, she is the freelance Project Manager for the Lammermuir Festival Community Operas and for the SCO Community Residencies.
Recent work for McOpera Outreach include an animated film production of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale with commissioned piece for children’s chorus and ensemble by Peter Kemp (Milngavie Tales), a professionally mentored Young Musicians’ Portfolio Musicians Project, and A Song for Flight by Moira Morrison for Milngavie Music Club (2017-19); and the A Song for Haddo mentored song-cycle series for primary school voices and high school instrumentalists for the Haddo Arts Festival (2017-20).
(photo John Hendry)
‘Teeming and seething, percussive, restless and evocative ... focused and atmospheric playing from the musicians of Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland. Jane Irwin made an urgent, beguiling Biskra and Damian Thantrey a credibly lusty, damaged Guimard’
‘A powerful evening’s entertainment… The small cast delivered the hi-concentrate libretto with dark and devilish potency’
‘Finely played by the musicians of Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland under the sympathetic baton of Ian Ryan’
‘Playing, singing and conducting are all excellent: Jane Irwin rises impressively to the challenge of the wide soprano-to-mezzo range of Biskra's part, with Damian Thantrey's Guimard equally secure and accurate.'
BBC Music Magazine
‘one of the most striking features of Chisholm's score is its highly imaginative orchestration for a chamber ensemble, shimmering with colour, menace and atmosphere. Chisholm's score is illuminated by brilliant and uneasy flashes of instrumental colour.’
‘A stunning work: one which demonstrates why Chisholm is beyond doubt Scotland’s leading modernist composer.’
‘Jane Irwin gives a fearless performance as Biskra, Damian Thantrey is bruised and swaggering as Guimard and Philip Sheffield is a sensitive Yusuf….[Ian Ryan conducts] Music Co OPERAtive Scotland, a collective of Scottish Opera’s freelance orchestral players who clinch the taught [sic], simmering angularity as well as the glittering refinement of Chisholm’s ensemble-writing.’
- Actor Michael Daviot on location at Tyninghame beach, East Lothian – photo Roddy Simpson
- Charlie Drummond in rehearsal – photo Sean Purser
- Conductor Ian Ryan in rehearsal – photo Sean Purser
- Dancers Salma Faraji and Erick Mauricia in rehearsal – photo Sue Baxendale
- Damian Thantry with Michael Daviot and Salma Faraji on the big screen at Glasgow Baths – photo Sean Purser
- Dancers Salma Faraji and Erick Mauricia in rehearsal – photo Sue Baxendale
- Damian Thantry in rehearsal – photo Mikah Smillie
- Skull & Score – photo Sue Baxendale
- Ian Ryan – photo Mikah Smillie
- Michael Daviot on the big screen at Glasgow Baths – photo Mikah Smillie
- Jane Irwin in rehearsal – photo Judith Fieldhouse
- Philip Sheffield perusing the score – photo Mikah Smillie
- Filming on location in Edinburgh – photo Sue Baxendale
- John Purser and intern Rachel Holton on set – photo Sean Purser
- Dancer Salma Faraji and actor Michael Daviot on set – photo Sue Baxendale
- Actor Michael Daviot on set – photo Sue Baxendale
- Dancer Salma Faraji on set – photo Sue Baxendale
- Angus Ramsay, 2nd violin – photo Sean Purser
- Cellist Aline Gow – photo Judith Fieldhouse
- Justine Watts – photo Mikah Smillie
- Laura Baxter on celeste – photo Mikah Smillie
- Lawrence Gill, clarinet – photo Sean Purser
- Cellists Sarah Harrington and Marie Connell – photo Juduth Fieldhouse
- McOpera Brass -Sue Baxendale, Simon Bird and Alan Pash – photo Mikah Smillie
- McOpera 2nd violins Justine Watts, Terez Korondi, Angus Ramsay, Kirsty Orton with piccolo Yvonne Robertson – photo Judith Fieldhouse
- McOpera Trumpet player Simon Bird – photo Mikah Smillie
- McOpera Winds with Janet Bloxwich (bassoon) – photo Judith Fieldhouse
- Oboe Kirsty Logan – photo Mikah Smillie
- Percussionist Jo McDowell – photo Sean Purser
- Pete Fry on Double Bass – photo Judith Fieldhouse
- Pianists Lliam Paterson & Lynda Cochrane – photo Sean Purser
- Rosie the Harmonium, with Derek Clark – photo Sean Purser
- The Basses! Peter Fry and Chris Freeman – photo Sean Purser
- Timpanist Ruari Donaldson – photo Judith Fieldhouse
- Viola Alison Hastie – photo Judith Fieldhouse
- Viola Lev Atlas surrounded by Delphian mics – photo Sean Purser
- Viola Mary Ward – photo Mikah Smillie
- Violinist Gemma O’Keeffe – photo Sean_Purser